The Real Drug Lords: A brief history of CIA involvement in the Drug Trade

By William Blum

This article was first published on August 31, 2008.

1947 to 1951, FRANCE

According to Alfred W. McCoy in The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, CIA arms, money, and disinformation enabled Corsican criminal syndicates in Marseille to wrestle control of labor unions from the Communist Party. The Corsicans gained political influence and control over the docks — ideal conditions for cementing a long-term partnership with mafia drug distributors, which turned Marseille into the postwar heroin capital of the Western world. Marseille’s first heroin laboratones were opened in 1951, only months after the Corsicans took over the waterfront.

EARLY 1950s, SOUTHEAST ASIA

The Nationalist Chinese army, organized by the CIA to wage war against Communist China, became the opium barons of The Golden Triangle (parts of Burma, Thailand and Laos), the world’s largest source of opium and heroin. Air America, the ClA’s principal airline proprietary, flew the drugs all over Southeast Asia. (See Christopher Robbins, Air America, Avon Books, 1985, chapter 9)

1950s to early 1970s, INDOCHINA

During U.S. military involvement in Laos and other parts of Indochina, Air America flew opium and heroin throughout the area. Many Gl’s in Vietnam became addicts. A laboratory built at CIA headquarters in northern Laos was used to refine heroin. After a decade of American military intervention, Southeast Asia had become the source of 70 percent of the world’s illicit opium and the major supplier of raw materials for America’s booming heroin market.
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